Another Winning Vegas Blackjack Trip March 2014

Even with the strong February trip I was in the hole for the year and needed to keep the good mojo rolling to get into the black for 2014.  This was a short two night trip for another speaking session at a small conference.  The timing worked well with a Tuesday arrival, event on Weds and late afternoon flight out on Thursday there was plenty of down time for the blackjack tables.

Since I had a solid run on my last trip I decided to stick with the same formula, stay at Elara, move between Ballys, Paris and Planet Hollywood.  The evening I arrived PH was fairly crowded so I headed to Paris where they had several wide open $25 tables.  I started off strong for once with the very first shoes netting a $500 head start.  I decided to call it an early night since I had to speak the next day and +$500/day isn’t bad for a hobby.

Day 2 work was good, but the blackjack wasn’t so hot – never try to impress people by playing cards – I took a few guys down to the tables during lunch and sure enough they did great while I dropped $200 in the blink of an eye.  After that depressing lunch and a few more hours of conference sessions I slipped out after the networking happy hour to hit my new favorite high-roller room at Ballys.  Ballys is a funny place – friendly dealers and a fairly nice lower end Vegas strip atmosphere, but their DJ wanders off from time to time and the high-energy music stops for 30 minutes or so and it feels like you are playing cards in a morgue.  I played for a long stretch at my high-limit table, had a nice solid run with ebbs and flows that generated a couple hundred on the plus side.  I decided to play my way back towards my hotel for an early night in order to wake up early for some extra play time on my final day.  My stop at Paris sucked $200 almost instantly from the bankroll which put me almost back to even for the trip and sent me to bed on a low note.

Day 3 was judgement day, I have a strategy, I had plenty of sleep and I’m playing in the morning which should give me plenty of alone time with the dealers.  8am on a weekday is an interesting time at a casino – at PH they actually keep the limits pretty high and tables were all busy since only the hard core are playing that early which forced me to walk to Paris – at Paris there were 2 $100 tables wide open, only 2 $25 tables which had players and when I aksed them to open another $25 they said no – they said it politely, but still a little frustrating so I headed to Ballys – best rejection of the week.  At Ballys I sat at my choice of wide open $25 tables  – plenty free there of course – and went on a super-heater.  On the first shoe I turned $300 into $1000 – couldn’t lose, turned 16s into 20s, dealer turned K’s into 15s and splits and doubles all hit.  It was a thing of beauty.  I quit while I was ahead – took my win and headed back to Paris where I thanked the pit boss who turned me away – she was very apologetic and thrilled that I won so it was all good in the end.

Since I was on a roll I skipped Paris and headed to the PH high-limit room to try to parlay the win.  I bought in for $700 figuring it was low enough to bail in case things went wrong.  The first shoe was a wash, up a touch down a touch.  Shoe 2 was a winner where I doubled my money and more – unfortunately I didn’t walk away with the more since I played out the entire shoe even after the heat died down and I gave back some of the winnings.  Now I had a problem – I won too fast – everyone knows that time is the biggest enemy of winning gamblers – the longer you play the better the chance of losing.  I had to kill several hours before my flight so I tried to fill some time playing craps – it was a fools errand, but it did at least cut some of the down time before my flight – I gave back a couple hundred of the winnings which may have been better than my results at blackjack over the same stretch, but we’ll never know for sure.


First Session at $100 Blackjack Table Vegas October 2013

I was back in Vegas for a couple of nights and on this trip.  I felt comfortable in my daily routine, knew the Planet Hollwood set-up, and had a blackjack system that was working well.  Due to my success and overall positive experience at PH last visit I planned my trip to spend as much time there as possible.

I had been to Vegas many times prior to this trip, but for some reason I never realized that I could earn Hilton Honors points while staying right on the strip – the Elara hotel is a Hilton property, has no smoking policy and is literally attached to Planet Hollywood – good stuff all the way around.

This trip started out strong with a quick run on the first night that ran up almost a grand in profit playing at the PH $25 tables.  Of course time is one of the biggest opponents to any black jack player and early on day 2 it looked like I was going to give back the entire upside of day 1.  After a disappointing early afternoon on day 2 I took a quick break and headed across the street to the Todd English PUB to regroup with a happy hour beer and burger sliders.  As I licked my wounds I made the decision to take a more aggressive tact and make a run at a big win at the Planet Hollywood high-limit room.

My first visit to the $100 table was a bit daunting – at PH there are only a couple of tables in the high-limit room which is just a handful of hand-wringing paces away from the rest of the tables.  One small step for me, one giant leap for my blood pressure.  Luckily few people go into the high-limit room so playing by myself is virtually guaranteed.  I change $700 – First hand – 15, dealer showing K – surrender – poof goes $50 without even seeing the dealers hole card.  Next few hands are uneventful, basically even, which allowed the sound of blood pounding through my ear drums to abate slightly.  About halfway through the shoe there was a nice run which got me a little on the plus side, but the end of shoe 1 saw me down about $150.

Shoe 2 started well, hit a soft middle then started to come on strong at the end which led to a huge moment of truth hand – I had increased my bet units during the strong run and was sitting on a $200 bet when I got 8-8 with the dealer showing a 7 – split 8s – first card 3 – double – oh crap! face down please – 2nd 8 hit with a J – okay should be at least one winner.  Dealer under card is a 6 for 13 – I cover my eyes and dealer turns a card, then another, then another – holy f I can’t look…and since I’m playing alone there is no cheer or groan to let me know the result so I have to move my hand from my eyes where I see the dealer moving to count out my winnings – dealer cards came A,2,6 for a 22 – much needed since my double card was a 6 – a $600 win!  The rest of the shoe was vanilla and I decided take my winnings straight to the cashier and run back to my hotel to check my shorts.  Solid trip at +$900!

Planet Hollywood Las Vegas June 2013

This was a quick one-day stop over on my way back from a speaking role at conference in SF.  My last trip to Miami had me underwater for the year so I was chomping at the bit to get back into the win column.  I received a free room night at Planet Hollywood from my Total Rewards friends.  This trip changed my Vegas routine and outlook on the type of casino I prefer.

In past trips I had stuck my nose up at the mid-scale strip casinos and spent my time going from Caesars to Bellagio to Venetian and Aria.  All of these places smell very nice, have beautiful interiors, and with a few exceptions their dealers are about as warm as the imported marble tiles that line their hallways.  On this trip I was thinking my routine would be the same as usual since I hadn’t played at PH much I had written it off as a cheesy mid level property.  Honestly that assement was pretty right on, but I found out that isn’t a bad thing whatsoever.

I took a 8am flight from SF to LAS which got me inside a casino at about 10am – actually it was outside at the casino – I didn’t know much about PH and mornings aren’t their strong suit which meant there weren’t any free tables inside so I headed to their poolside tables.  This isn’t very publicized, but a very cool option – cute swimsuit clad dealers under tents and misting stations right next to the bar at their rooftop pool.  The scenery was great, the dealers and pit crew were very friendly, the weather was hot and the tables were wide open – PH immediately became my kind of place.

Great thing about Vegas is that surrender is available almost everywhere, there are almost always plenty of table options available so the $10 crowd can play team black jack for fun, the $25 players can play in groups of 1-3 and the $50+ players can be anti-social on solo tables.  There weren’t too many tables outside, but with little foot traffic and mostly low-rollers looking for a fun $10 game at the pool I had a $25 table to myself for hours.  I had spent the past 8 weeks since Miami practicing on my favorite free Blackjack app – my focus was on surrender and how to make it part of the strategy.  I became as big a fan of surrender as I was becoming of PH – going up $700 after a few hours, lunch at the poolside bar, and a perfectly pleasant afternoon.

After my poolside win I still was drawn back to my old routine so I headed across the street to Aria and quickly realized that as nice a place as it is I’m more comfortable at PH.  The Aria dealers were blah, the crowd was reserved and the energy was non-existant.  It is a great property, amazing restaurants and bars, beautiful people, fantastic service, high-quality rooms, but it just doesn’t feel like a place you can win and the dealers can go for hours without speaking or breaking a smile.  I spent an hour or so at my old favorite spot and knew that it wasn’t for me anymore – although I still make a stop at Todd English PUB for sliders and a beer almost every time I’m in Vegas.

After dropping a few hundred at Aria I headed back to my new homebase and tried some indoor blackjack.  By now the pleasure pit was open and half-naked women were dealing $25 tables in addition to the standard PH pit – and the music was up and rockin.  The vibe at PH was electric, casual and fun – exactly what you want when you are winning or losing.  The friendly attractive dealers definitely draw a crowd which can make it hard to find an open table to play one on one, but with a little patience tables do open up.  I had another decent run and at 8pm was pleasantly surprised when the music went way up and the Pleasure Pit shift change happened in great ceremony with PHamous playing the new ladies in.  It was a good night – I did get a little caught up in the atmosphere and drink a few more Bud Lights than usual which caused some sloppy play which limited my winnings to $500 total, it got me back in black numbers for the year, but easily could have brought home a few more big bills.